City clerk Doreen Pesek, right, swears Tory Roberts, left, in as a city council member. Roberts replaces Chris Morrow on the council. Morrow vacated his seat when he became mayor in April. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

City clerk Doreen Pesek, right, swears Tory Roberts, left, in as a city council member. Roberts replaces Chris Morrow on the council. Morrow vacated his seat when he became mayor in April. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Danedri Thompson
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Officials adopted a health care plan that continues the practice of incentivizing employees to take a high deductible health plan (HDHP) paired with a health savings account (HAS).
Last year, about 72 percent of city employees opted to take an HDHP. In return, the city put $300 in individual HSA accounts and $600 in family HSA accounts. It was supposed to be a one-time deal.
However, staff recommended during a council meeting on May 20 that the practice continue next year with an even greater incentive. City employees who opt for the HDHP this year, will receive $500 for their health savings accounts. Family accounts will receive $1,000.
“The whole point of continuing this strategy is because you have success,” Laura Gourley, city finance director told the council.
As employees shifted to HDHPs last year from more expensive HMOs and PPOs, the city realized a one-time cost benefit of approximately $100,000. The city health benefit package pays 100 percent of premiums for individual employees and 80 percent of the cost for family plans.
Gourley said without the incentive for employees to take the HDHPs, healthy staff members might opt for an HMO or PPO, making the city’s insurance pool unstable, and perhaps, less healthy and more costly.
With insurance premium increases and the health savings account premiums, the city will pay $36,300 more for employee health benefit packages next year.
Council member Kristina Harrison said she’d like to see a strategy for managing city health care costs down the line. She said as part of budget discussions this year, she would like the council to consider how much money they want to spend for healthcare each year.
“If we can say number we want to spend on insurance, then we could start controlling costs,” Harrison said.
Currently, the city simply takes bids for their existing package each year. Next year’s health benefits will be impacted by changes to federal health care laws as well.
In other business, city council members:
• held a work session to discuss an agreement between the city of Gardner and the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation for economic development services. The council later tabled an action item that would’ve adopted a contract between the pair. It will be discussed at a later council meeting or work session.
• approved preliminary and final plats for First Light Church. The Methodist congregation plans to build a church on the north side of Santa Fe Street near the Poplar Street intersection.
• approved a request that will allow Festival on the Trails planners to sell malt liquor beverages within 200 feet of a school and church during the Festival on the Trails.
• selected newly-appointed member Tory Roberts to assist the Mayor in making appointments to the city planning commission and board of zoning appeals; selected Steve Shute to assist in making appointments to the airport commission and electric utility board.
• passed two ordinances that will allow the city to move forward with condemnation hearings related to two city projects – the Big Bull Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Center and Main Street intersection projects.